Home is where the heart is. But that’s not the case for Azaline Eusope, a fifth-generation street food vendor in San Francisco. Her heart brought her home when she decided to spread the mamak culture at a faraway land from Malaysia.
The beginning of Eusope’s Mamak business
The pastry-trained chef Azalina Eusope is one of the first few Malaysians to spread the Mamak culture in a foreign land as she introduced Malaysians’ favourite street food to the people in San Francisco. Way before she decided to spread the Mamak culture, it was just a hobby of hers to cook Malaysian food for herself, her family, and friends as those food are her comfort food. Word got out about her homecooked meals, so eventually she started her Malaysian food business as a food truck and founded “Azalina’s Malaysian” in 2010.
Eusope’s inspiration comes from her childhood memories as her grandmother used to sell coconut rice out of a basket that she carried between villages in Penang. Though she yearned to become a lawyer, she could never turn down her family business of street food for over 5 generations in one of the best street food cities in Asia.
“This is the kind of food that reminds me of my culture, my family, my memories. You can’t turn it away. It’s in your family and in your soul. Somehow it’s going to come and find you,” says Eusope.
Thus, she decided to share the Mamak-style food and Penang’s culture through her signature dishes such as Penang Curry Bomb Buns, Malaysian Nachos, Laksa, and so on. Her Mamak business gained her the reputation in making some of the best Malaysian food in San Francisco and her jarred sauces (peanut sauce, warm coconut jam, etc) are now sold at Whole Foods Market, an American foods supermarket chain specializing in natural and organic foods.
It was a bumpy road to Eusope’s success ever since she left Malaysia to pursue her culinary dream at the age of 15. She became a pastry chef in Singapore and to date, she has been to six different countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia and Tokyo before arriving in San Francisco. Encouraged by her husband Tim and her own passion, she was driven to make the most out of her Mamak’s culture in San Francisco.
And as they say, the rest is history.
Ever since she was named one of “10 Top Upcoming Chefs” to watch out for in Bon Apetit magazine (2010), her business became better than ever even though she found herself having to work 18 to 20 hours a day to serve the signature Malaysian dishes from her Penang-style hawker stand. She was even honoured by Women’s Initiative for Self Improvement for being an “Enterprising Woman on the Rise” in 2012.
Last year, her booth was one of the winners from the Southeast Asia booth for “the warming murtabak, a pleasantly spiced stuffed pancake of sorts.”, as quoted by Eater SF. One of her most significant events in her business was catering to a private event with her signature Malaysian street food for President Barack Obama.
Azalina’s first brick-and-mortar restaurant
Azalina Eusope has been cooking her food in a shared community kitchen several times a week for limited hours. However, she had recently lost access to the kitchen and was forced to expand her business in a new commercial kitchen for Azalina’s. Thus, Eusope decided to have her first brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Twitter HQ, with a 15,000 square foot kitchen and an urban hydroponic garden to supply the herbs for her food.
Set to be opened in September 2014, Eusope intended to make her restaurant into a casual and informal eating venue with both communal and bar seatings serving lunch, dinner, snacks in between and brunch on the weekends with a solid takeout component. The chef plans to transport the Mamak culture into the restaurant, a space that will feature natural lighting and glass walls including large windowed doors that slide open onto the back patio.
Just like how Malaysians would spend their time outside at the Mamak, customers can spent their time outside at the back patio where the chef would host movie screenings and bonfires.
The next two months will be a time to challenge Azalina’s determination as she continues to work hard on raising funds to lease her own commercial kitchen. More about Azalina Eusope’s story here: